Monday, December 21, 2015


21st December 2015,

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Major General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, recently commuted the death sentence passed on 66 soldiers to ten years imprisonment each. The soldiers were accused of mutiny and sentenced to death on 17th December, 2014.       

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) hereby commends the COAS for reviewing the case of the soldiers. By this development, the COAS has demonstrated an enviable leadership quality and shown Nigerians that he is ready to listen to complaints and make adjustments where necessary. The COAS and the entire Nigerian Army also deserve accolades for putting Boko Haram on the run after being at the receiving end for a long period under the last administration.

However, we deem it necessary to further advance the cause of the 66 soldiers. We still believe very strongly that they do not deserve additional punishment for two good reasons. Firstly, these soldiers asked to be better equipped before being sent to face insurgents who were better armed. This is only reasonable as dead soldiers cannot protect Nigeria’s territorial integrity.

Secondly, the soldiers have received enough punishment already having been in custody for the past eight months. It is noteworthy that they had allegedly fed themselves during the period.

The case of 54 soldiers out of the 66 is even different because it appears that both the army and the press have lumped them together. It is necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff and put issues in their proper context.

12 soldiers were actually involved in the alleged attempt on the life of their commander while the remaining 54 were those who asked to be properly armed before advancing on the enemy. It was not their first time of engaging the insurgents because they had earlier advanced with their battalion on 9th July, 2014 under Lt. Col K. C. Uwa to recapture Damboa where Boko Haram insurgents had earlier dislodged 195 Battalion. Unfortunately they were ambushed by the terrorists and they lost 23 men and four officers due to inadequate equipment.

Again on 4th August they were asked to advance towards the same Damboa, Deluwa and Bullabilin without any improvement in armament. They had no single armoured car.

They therefore asked for equipments from their commander, Lt. Col. Oporum. They were rounded up for daring to demand arms before engaging a better equipped foe.

The case of the 54 soldiers is therefore another cup of tea and we want Nigerians to understand it so. It is totally different from the 12 soldiers who were later apprehended allegedly for attempting to kill an army general.

The 54 soldiers did not mutiny. They merely asked for weapons. They begged not to be sent on suicide mission fighting hardened terrorists with their bare hands. They were the first group in year 2014 who demanded equipment. They did not open fire on anybody. They are different from those 12 who allegedly opened fire on an army general.

By demanding equipments, the 54 soldiers exposed the monumental corruption which was going on under former President Goodluck Jonathan. In fact, they laid the foundation for the current probes on arms fund. Should we therefore kill the goose that lay the golden eggs?

MURIC appeals to President Muhammadu Buhari as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to grant the soldiers presidential pardon. We are begging Mr. President as the father of all to set these soldiers free and reinstate them. Just as Mr. President has been resolute and hard on corrupt officials, we urge him to be rewarding and lenient on diligent workers, patriotic citizens and gallant soldiers.

Nigerians have spoken with one voice. Various groups are demanding leniency for the 66 soldiers. No single group has blamed them since revelations of corrupt enrichment from the arms fund have started. On the contrary, Nigerians pity these poor soldiers who are being made to pay for the greed and avarice of political gluttons.

MURIC therefore invites President Buhari to grace the scenario like ‘a Daniel come to justice’. Release our heroes from detention. Their freedom will boost the morale of other soldiers who are on the battle field. It will assure them that they have a listening Commander-in-Chief. This will be the real justice, the real change which we all voted for.

In conclusion, we aver that freedom for the 66 soldiers will mean the psychological defeat of Boko Haram as well as a morale booster for Nigerian soldiers fighting insurgents. We must not allow Boko Haram insurgents to rejoice as we kill and punish our soldiers with our own hands. Moreover, Nigerians will see freedom for the 66 soldiers as another victory in the current war against corruption.  

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

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